MB Subba 

While almost all the sectors of the economy took a severe hit in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, hydropower saw a significant growth with energy generation increasing by 31.45 percent.

Total generation from the six hydropower plants that are in operation increased to 11,364 million units (MU) in 2020 from 8,645 MU in the previous year, according to the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC). The increase in the generation is attributed to better rainfalls and the commissioning of the Mangdechhu project.

Tala, Chukha, Kurichhu and Basochhu hydropower plants are directly under DGPC. The Mangdechhu plant is under the Mangdechhu Hydropower Project Authority (MHPA) although the operation and management component is managed by DGPC while Dagachhu is incorporated under the Companies Act.

Electricity is the single largest export with India as the sole importer.

According to DGPC, the country exported a total 9,121 MU of electricity worth more than Nu 27.042 billion (B) in 2020. The total domestic sale amounted to 2,108MU worth Nu 3.144B.

Managing Director of DGPC, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, said that the higher generation of the DGPC power plants and Dagachhu and better hydrology in the year that just went by contributed to the increase in generation.

The generation from MHPA increased significantly to 3,218MU in 2020 from 1,320 MU in the previous year. The plant was commissioned in June 2019 and had been in operation for the full year in 2020.

“Overall, this year was a good year as far as hydrology was concerned. We got early rains and the monsoon receded a little later than usual,” Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said. “The hydrological flows in the river were better than expected.”

The DGPC MD said that except for some inconveniences, the Covid-19 pandemic has not affected the operation and maintenance of all the hydropower plants.

Throughout the pandemic, he said that the government has been always forthcoming in ensuring that the power plants did not have to face any problems. DHI, he said, helped coordinate everything that was required to deal with the pandemic at the power plants and facilitate in whatever way possible.

“Most importantly, there was excellent coordination with our counterparts on the Indian side and there was no disruption of electricity export despite the difficult situation on both sides. On Bhutan’s side, BPC ensured that domestic supply continued uninterrupted,” Dasho Chhewang Rinzin added.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that all the hydropower plants under operation have had a very successful year. The impact, he said, has mostly been on the hydropower projects where the pace of construction suffered from the pandemic.

“Hopefully, 2021 will see the construction of these hydropower projects pick up once again,” he said.

As the country’s GDP growth is inexplicably linked with the growth of the hydropower sector, a strong growth in the hydropower generation is expected to offset some impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Till 2019, the overall hydropower revenue constituted about 24 percent of direct revenues for the government and offset much of the balance of payments with India. But the share of domestic revenues from other sectors are likely to decrease as the total domestic revenue is estimated to fall by 14 percent in 2020.